A few weeks back I wrote about the fabulous plus-size model Tess Munster and received a flurry of email from readers interested in finding out about the newest resources for plus-size women. Well, the good news is that you do have the options to really shop in style. The not-so-good news is that some of the great new plus-size designer lines can be very pricey. But this just means that you’ll have to shop wisely.
Carmencita Whonder was educated at Howard and Johns Hopkins and is experienced in diverse fields including financial services, international affairs, philanthropy, and U.S. politics (she had a stint working for New York senator Chuck Schumer). She’s also one of the millions of women who wear larger than a size 14 who couldn’t find clothing that suited her lifestyle and size. “I played a big role and wanted to make sure I always looked the part. As my size changed, I found nothing beyond a size 12 that was truly great—or even good—to help me achieve this goal. For me, there was no worse feeling than having to be relegated to buying gorgeous and expensive accessories to cover up clothing that I wasn’t necessarily fond of.” For that reason, Whonder created her own line of designer plus-size clothing, Of Whonder.
Living in Washington, D.C., and working in politics with frequent trips to New York City, not to mention traveling the globe for business, Whonder was familiar with great style but was unable to find it in her own size. “I have always been able to keep up with the fashion industry—what I needed was fashion that could keep up with me,” she says.
“I craved high-quality, tailored garments that fit both my frame and my multifaceted lifestyle. It was about achieving the style myself and women like me deserve—elevated fashion, the highest quality fabrics, hand-made details, and more.”
And her line line delivers—though it isn’t exactly cheap. Whonder describes it as a luxury brand with artisan-quality collections. Her clothing is “crafted with the finest fabrics and materials from places across the globe like Italy, India, and Japan. Our debut collection features a great amount of the finest Nappa leather that only the top brands in the business offer.” I was excited to discover that the entire Of Whonder line is “designed, cut, and sewn in New York City.”
And as for the whole plus-size thing? “I definitely think a lot of the language is antiquated,” Whonder says. “But women can identify with whatever terms makes them feel comfortable and, personally, I feel most comfortable describing my clients and myself as women—not larger women, fuller figured women, bigger women, or even plus-sized women.”
Another line worth noting is Curvy Couture, a line of beautiful underthings designed by Dora Lau who previously designed for Victoria’s Secret and Lane Bryant among others. Lau says that she feels that curves are the best part of the body and that curvier girls were for the most part under-served. “We all flaunt the best parts of the body. I would never wear a dress that’s tight—I don’t want to flaunt my tummy—so if you wear a really great bra, it shows off the best part of your shape.” Lau also recommends a different bra for different occasions “some people just wear a bra and are shorting themselves, because women are built differently. So why should we all be wearing the same bra?”
As for push up bras which may have a reputation as being a bit naughty, Lau explains that “As we age, gravity might start to pull your girls down and you might feel as though you’re looking flat.” In other words, a push up bra simply acts to correct the force of gravity.
“Every bra has its own function,” Lau says, “Pick and choose whichever bra you feel the most comfortable. How can you be concentrating on what you’re supposed to be doing if you’re worried about your underwire is poking you?”
As for underwear trends for spring, Lau says that it’s all about smoothing bulges. To that end, she’s created a line of shapewear called Cool Smoothies made with new to the industry cool yarn. She also suggests looking for retro touches including soft florals and lace detailing. And the best new trend in bras according to Lau are light and soft, breathable fabrics. “It’s all about making yourself feel good,” she says.
Ecco: the Scandinavian high-style leather goods brand has a line of shoes with a sculptured heel in different heights that look great and can support a variety of weights. They’re made with a handcrafted inlay sole and specially developed comfort shank. I tend to be on my feet all day and I love the Sculptured Mary Jane (about $109) which are cute enough to wear to work and nearly as comfortable as sneakers. Kathy Cho of the Ecco design team also explained that hobo bags (check out the Belmar design in pavement a great deep grey/green neutral, about $185) are a great choice and flattering shape for any body type. I love the fact that there are loads of compartments and the strap can be worn two ways- as a hobo or short handled handbag.
Eloquii: This much beloved brand that was formerly part of The Limited chain has relaunched just in time for spring with private ownership. Designs are very trend-friendly with faux leather detailing and bright color accents. Check out the scuba pencil skirts, which are very body conscious and extremely flattering.
Desigual: The trendy Spanish brand is known for their colorful clothing, shoes, and accessories. But did you also know that some styles go up to an XXL? (But check the sizes—they’re not identical to U.S. standards). The Ocean Sweater puts a new twist on the classic spring sweater with bright florals and a dreamy psychedelic design. Best of all – it’s extremely flattering (about $114).
Rachel Weingarten is a noted and quoted style expert, personal brand consultant and former celebrity makeup artist. She’s the author of three non-fiction books. Her new book: Ancient Prayer: Channeling Your Faith 365 Days of the Year will be published by Fall River Press in September 2014. Tweet with her@rachelcw or like her new page on Facebook. Need help style stalking your favorite celebrity looks? Write to Rachel at email@example.com